Thursday, July 30, 2015

Great Summer Read- with Dog

Lee Robinson
Thomas Dunne Books
July 7, 2015

Life is complicated for Charleston, SC lawyer Sally Bright Baynard. Since her divorce from Family Court Judge Joe Baynard 18 years earlier she has maintained a busy practice as a public defender and family practice lawyer. She has a good reputation and more than keeps her head above water. But when she takes over the care of her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease things get very complicated indeed. Being appointed "lawyer for the dog"  by her ex-husband in a messy and contentious divorce just adds to the stress. The last thing she needs is the guardianship of a dog, even one as charming as Sherman. Even worse are the rumors that the Judge appointed her because he wants to reconcile after all these years. Sally was not your typical southern belle and never could fit into the Judge's wealthy and connected family. But can she fit with Sherman's interesting veterinarian?

I enjoyed Lawyer for the Dog tremendously. Sally has wit and style- and a very big heart. All the characters were instantly recognizable to me since I was born and grew up in the South though I have not lived there for many years. I recommend Lawyer for the Dog for just about anyone looking for a lighthearted summer read, animal lover or not. Sally's adventures with Sherman are very funny, but there are serious issues as well. Sally's relationship with her mother and the challenges of dealing with Alzheimers are dealt with in a compassionate manner. Thanks to Thomas Dunne Books and for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4 Stars

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Potting Shed Mystery #3
Marty Wingate
Random House Alibi
August 4, 2015

Transplanted Texan Pru Parke finds herself in a very different situation after her successful gig at Primrose House (The Red Book of Primrose House). Not only is she inundated with offers, but she has also had a marriage proposal from Chief Inspector Christopher Pearse of the London Met. The two have taken a six-month leave together and decide to get married after Pru's three-month engagement at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Pru has been hired to authenticate a journal attributed to Archibald Menzies, the eighteenth-century botanist and explorer. After arriving in Edinburgh, she finds herself at loggerheads with a colleague who thinks he should have had the job. He also hints that she is not qualified and got the job through shady means. When the colleague turns up dead after an argument with Pru, she is the logical suspect. The situation becomes complicated by wedding plans gone awry and the presence of an old flame from Texas at the Botanic Garden.

The Potting Shed Mysteries are wonderful reads. Not only do I like Pru and Christopher but the gardening lore and the varied locales are extremely well done. The wedding planning is frequently hilarious and provides a  counterpoint to the more serious mystery plot. The only quibble that I have is that the sub-plot about Pru's appointment seemed a bit too convoluted. Otherwise, I find Between a Rock and a Hard Place an almost perfect cozy English mystery and look forward to the next in the series.

Thanks to and Random House Alibi for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING= 4 Stars

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jake and Laura Honeymoon in Hawaii

WINGS IN THE DARK  (Jake and Laura Mystery #3)
Michael Murphy
July 14, 2015
Random House Alibi

Jake and Laura are finally married and hoping for a quiet honeymoon of sun and fun in 1935 Hawaii. Jake's background as a Pinkerton and new career as mystery writer along with Laura's acting skills make them formidable if reluctant crime solvers. Of course, the two have friends everywhere; this time it's Amelia Earhart, who is preparing for a solo flight across the Pacific. When they visit her at the hangar just a couple of nights before she is planning to take off they discover a murder victim, shot once in the back and once in the head. The victim is Hank Kalua, a prominent businessman and chief financial backer of Amelia's flight in the islands. Suspicion immediately falls on Amelia but Hank had plenty of enemies, including his own family, militant Hawaiian Royalists, a spurned mistress and possibly the Empire of Japan. Both the British and American governments seem very interested in ensuring that the flight take place on schedule.

The Jake and Laura mysteries are fun romps through the 1930's, full of name-dropping and historical detail. We meet Amelia Earhart, her husband George Putnam, General George Patton as a lowly Lieutenant Colonel trying to climb a stagnant career ladder and even J. Edgar Hoover. The famous and infamous people Murphy includes very much reflect the personalities in the historical record. For those unfamiliar with the somewhat murky history of US involvement in Hawaii, Wings in the Dark has some fascinating detail. This is a fast and entertaining read for historical mystery fans, especially those who enjoy witty mysteries from the 1930's. Jake and Laura fall into the tradition of The Thin Man, and are worthy successors.

I have enjoyed all the Jake and Laura books and Wings in the Dark is no exception. Dark times are coming in the world and I'm interested to see how the darkness is shown in  future books. Thanks to Random House Alibi and netgalley for an advance digital copy in return for an honest review.

RATING- 4 Stars

Monday, July 6, 2015

Carnivals, Mermaids, Tarot Cards and Horseshoe Crabs. Oh My.....

Erika Swyler
St. Martins Press
June 23, 2015

The Book of Speculation is a remarkably ambitious and polished debut; part family saga, part supernatural tale and wholly fascinating. Simon Watson is a thirty-ish librarian living on Long Island who receives an ancient handwritten book from an antiquarian book dealer whom he does not know. The dealer says he sent the book because Simon's grandmother's  name appears in it. The book seems to be a sort of account book for a traveling carnival in 1740's America.

Simon's parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in Long Island Sound when he was a small child, and his father a few years later of pining away for his lost wife. Simon's job is precarious, his house is falling around his ears and he is estranged from his sister, Enola. Nothing has ever seized his imagination as much as this book, especially after he learns his grandmother drowned as well. In fact, many of his female forbears were carnival mermaids who could hold their breath for freakishly long times. All of them drowned on the same date in July. None should have. Simon and Enola's mother taught them the secret of holding their breath as well. Can Simon break the curse when Enola comes home unexpectedly in mid-July?

The Book of Speculation switches back and forth between the 1740's carnival and the present day. Sometimes that method of telling a tale can be risky but Swyler manages it with considerable aplomb. I was beguiled by the characters throughout, in fact, the word beguiling sums up the book very well for me. It is one of the rare books that will stick with me, even though there is no final solution of the question of a curse. And I can't even begin to explain the horseshoe crabs! It is just another thing about The Book of Speculation that lingers in my head.

Thanks to St. Martin's and netgalley for an advance digital copy.

RATING- 4 Stars

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Romantic Gothic with a Refreshing Difference

Amanda DeWees, Narr. Elizabeth Klett
Audible Audio 
May 2015

Our heroine, Clara, is working at her position as a seamstress in 1854 London, where she has been employed for the past eighteen years. She had been dismissed as a very young woman from her position as a housemaid to the Blackwood family of Gravesend Hall for having fallen in love with one of the sons, Richard Blackwood. Richard was killed very soon after her banishment while fighting in the Crimean War. Clara has always remained true to his memory so when his twin brother, Atticus, offers her marriage in return for a comfortable life she refuses him. Her circumstances soon drastically change and she is forced to accept the bargain.

I have been reading some rather dark stories lately so With This Curse was just the thing to counteract that. I read tons of gothic fiction as a young adult so it's a genre for which I have a lot of affection. This one does not disappoint with an upright heroine, a cursed house and a hero who is a refreshing change from the usual mysterious dark stranger. I also liked the fact that the heroine was considerably older than most, with much more life experience. I had the story "twist" figured out long before Clara though, and that is my only quibble.

Elizabeth Klett's narration is excellent with an impeccable British accent. It was a very enjoyable listen, well told by her. This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of

RATING- 4 Stars